How to Enable and Disable COVID-19 Exposure Notifications on iPhone

BY Parth Shah

Published 23 May 2020

exposure notification on ios

In response to Coronavirus pandemic, Apple and Google partnered to develop contact-tracing technology to help global health authorities to track the COVID-19 spread. Both companies have released the first version of the exposure notification API for Android and iOS devices. Starting with the iOS 13.5 update on iPhone, you can enable the COVID-19 exposure logging on the device. Follow the steps to turn on exposure notifications on the iPhone.

How Does Contact Tracing Using Exposure Notifications Work?

Here is how it works. The exposure notification API will use Bluetooth on iPhones to send anonymous identifiers to nearby devices that are within range. Other devices will also broadcast such identifiers and receive them. All such identifiers will be stored on the device itself. Whenever a user manually reports themselves as COVID-19 positive, the data is then sent to everyone who is using a contact tracing app. Their device will then go through the log of the devices that they had been within their range over the last 14 days and then inform them if they had come in contact with that COVID-19 positive person. Apple has taken a decentralized approach here as the log of devices remains stored on a user’s device.

Apple and Google aim to assist developers working for health authorities in creating apps that can warn the user about possible contact with an infected person. Over a dozen countries have released such solutions to track the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. But so far, the scale of such apps have been limited to the respective country only. And here is where Apple and Google’s solution fill-in the shoes.

Make no mistake, this isn’t an app from Apple and Google. These are API tools built on a privacy-first decentralized tracing system that require multiple layers of consent, uses Bluetooth signals instead of location tracking, and it is more reliable. Apple said over 22 countries and several US states are already planning to build contact tracing apps using its exposure notification API. Not all contact tracing apps use the Exposure Notification system from Apple and Google. Only the ones that do will show up under the Exposure Logging feature in iOS 13.5.

For a contact tracing app to be successful, user adoption is the key to success. Your personal data or location history will not be tracked via any contact tracing app that uses the exposure notification system from Apple. The contact tracing tech from Apple and Google does not rely on location tracking. It only uses Bluetooth which is more relevant here. Google and Apple are hoping that strong privacy protections will drive the growth of apps using their API tools. If you want to learn more about this feature and exposure API, head to Apple’s contact tracing page. You can also check our article about Apple’s Exposure Notifications system where we have answered all the frequently asked questions from our readers.

How to Enable and Disable COVID-19 Exposure Notifications on iPhone

The exposure notification option is disabled by default on the iPhone. You first need to download a compatible app made by your country’s public health authority from the App Store, which will ask for permission to use data from exposure notification on the iPhone. Please note that we are yet to see an app developed by public health authority which uses the COVID-19 Exposure Notification API yet. But, according to reports, several countries are either developing or planning to update their contact tracing apps to use the technology from Apple and Google.

You will be able to enable or disable Exposure Notifications on your iPhone after you’ve installed a compatible app by following these steps.

Step 1: Open the Settings app on the iPhone.

Step 2: Navigate to General > Software Update, and update to iOS 13.5.

update to iOS 13.5

Step 3: After a successful update, open the Setting app on the iPhone and go to the Privacy section.

Step 4: From the privacy menu, navigate to Health > COVID-19 Exposure Logging and enable the toggle. From the same menu, you can disable the toggle as well.

exposure notification


Are you planning to enable Exposure Notifications on your iPhone if an app developed by the public health authority is available? Do you think Apple and Google’s effort will help government agencies to track Coronavirus pandemic? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.